Tim Howard. I think we all know the question Trebek, but per the rules of the game I submit “What is: Who will start in goal for the U.S. this summer?” Now, if only the answer up front were as easy.
I don’t need to say it, but up front is thin; Kate Moss and her dog Asta thin. I would say against little argument that Jozy has locked down his spot on the frontline. Our big boy looked good against the Netherlands and showed well in the Confed Cup (Who doesn’t love seeing this?).
So now let’s take a quick look at our pairing options (assuming Bobbo’s 4-4-2):
Davies: Obvious first choice if he can recover. Has the speed to pull the defense around the pitch or force them to play soft coverage. Chuck was adding technical skill and composure at a rapid rate prior to injuries. Willing to fight and never lacking in confidence. To borrow from Raymond Carver: Will you please get better, please?
Ching: The inverted James Brown: The hardest working show in man business. Ching gets after it on the pitch. Hell, Ching gets after it as soon as his eyelids separate in the morning. No question he would do whatever BB wanted, but could he pair well with Jozy? Interesting thought, but… My thought: too much lumber, not enough tools between them. Yours?
Eddie Johnson, Jeff Cunningham, Robbie Findley, Connor Casey: You’re kidding, right? You had your shot… NEXT!
Kenny Cooper: C’mon buddy, get it together. Your move back to Europe was supposed to keep you moving onward and upward. Instead, your mid-table Bundesliga 2 side loans you out to English Championship relegation fodder Plymouth Argyle where you’ve failed to crack the starting XI. You need to level-up in a hurry.
Am I missing anyone? A certain four-letter entertainment Web site has Robbie Rogers listed as a forward, but those guys think Craven Cottage is where Thoreau holed up… or how about: those guys think Queens Park Rangers are a special unit of the Canadian Mounties. Either way, they still can’t say “soccer” without snickering like schoolgirls, and Robbie (of the Rogers variety) won’t be seeing time up front.
What this means is that we’re not going to be able to chuck the ball forward and expect Rooney and Ibrahimovic to do the rest. So if we are likely not to see an outpouring of 9-shirt/10-shirt play and a barrage of goals from our forwards, the question then becomes how else do we going to find a way to shout “Pick THAT one out, Foster!”
Here is my list, in stream-of-consciousness order, of how I see us finding the back of the net this summer exclusive of strikers:
Drop-pass to onrushing mid: A nifty ball into Jozy inside the box will draw the attention of 2 defenders and he’ll cut a dangerous ball inside the spot. Attacking mids will find space and crash the net. This must follow prolonged possession in the offensive third. Otherwise, a driving run near or along the endline toward the post from an outside player (outside mid on a flyer or a back on the overlap) thinking 80% pass-20% shot.
Set piece header: Bocs’ specialty. Dempsey is next in line. Gooch is no stranger to the box on these occasions and if Goodson gets in the match he’s no slouch either. Lando/Dolo/Spector will drive a ball to the six and DeMerit will chew on someone’s neck setting his mates free.
Dempsey brilliance: Either from distance, a moment of pure creativity, or pure technical splendor, Deuce can conjure something out of nothing. If he’s in the game and in the mood, then Dempsey is always likely to give us the best moment of the match. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him finish one from a direct kick either.
Counter attack: Defensive-minded center mids? GO, Bob. Speed on the flank? GO, Bob. Inability to hold possession, drawing over-confident opponents ever further away from their goal? GO, Bob. All systems GO for launch… T-minus 10 seconds and holding for change of possession in our defensive third. Sometimes I think MB90 gives the ball away just so he can tackle somebody again. It is in these moments, where we don’t quite look like being able to string together confident passes to push the ball up-field, that we decide all we need is the ONE telling pass and we’re off to the races.
Scrum in the box: Guys like Davies and Jozy are good at keeping the ball alive in this sort of situation. Lando rarely loses sight of frame and Dempsey turns into Hyde inside the 18. Crosses from overlapping backs will cause problems and we will see some pinball.
Midfielder runs onto through ball just outside 18: This one requires us to be firing on all cylinders. Don’t know if we can piece this one together, but with our speed and fitness, it’s there for the taking. We are more likely to be going around than through, but if our opponent is convinced we are going touchline, we could sneak the opposite flank or a deep midfielder through.
PK: Don’t expect us to get any calls. Just don’t. Unless we’re far enough from Europe, but I don’t think Mars is far enough. Still, it’s in the rule book, and a tricky JFT type could entice one of those mouth breathing centerbacks into taking a hopeful stab at the ball only to clip an ankle. While we are on the subject, will somebody please explain Lando’s wrist/knuckle/hand kissy-thing to the rest of us.
Of course if Beasley or Bedoya step up, or Stu gets healthy, we might see Dempsey or Donovan get a full 90 up top. We’ll see who gets trotted out in the friendlies!
Doug Beard is a staff writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.